The choice of technology options for enterprises seeking to connect their WAN edge locations has broadened with the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) decision to open spectrum in the 6GHz band for unlicensed use in the US. Last week’s move ushers in at a stroke long anticipated commercial applications for WiFi 6, the latest generation of WiFi technology, providing rivalry for 5G as an engine of growth for IoT and IIoT applications.
The 6GHz band is currently the preserve of licenced microwave services that are used to support use cases like wireless backhaul.
Wi-Fi 6 is over two-and-a-half times faster than the current WiFi standard, offering better performance for businesses and consumers. Opening the 6GHz band for unlicensed use will increase the amount of spectrum available for Wi-Fi by a factor of nearly five and help improve rural connectivity.
5G also has the capacity to deal with long-haul, high-density applications, creating a challenge for network managers to choose between WiFi and 5G, or make a hybrid of the two solutions work effectively.
“Whilst this is a US decision, is also a huge deal globally as Europe and other countries in the Middle East may follow,” said Tam Dell’Oro, Founder and CEO of Dell’Oro Group. “It means the amount of spectrum available to Wi-Fi would increase by almost a factor of five.”
She pointed out that only the newest Wi-Fi products would be able to operate in this spectrum as previous generations were not designed for 6GHz: “Products that are able to operate in the 6GHz spectrum will likely carry a premium price because it will be a premium service,” she concluded. “Also, the products will likely be more sophisticated and require more things like antennas or special signalling so that when they transmit signals they do not interfere with the microwave or other signalling already operating in the 6GHz spectrum.”
Erin Dunne, an analyst from the Vertical Systems Group, speaking at the Global IT Summit hosted by NetEvents in San Jose last October, said “Networks are now about connecting more and more end-points. That’s where the battle lines will be drawn between the two types of networks.”
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